KISSIMMEE - In Class 3A, the Fleming Island High wrestling program has risen to just to the edge of perfection with a rise to prominence against a repeat foe with South Dade knocking out the Golden Eagles 34-22 in the state semifinal on Saturday at Osceola High School in Kissimmee. South Dade twice beat Fleming Island in the Class 3A state finals of the newly-created duals championship tournament, created three years ago, with this year's loss coming in semifinal action.
Fleming Island won their region final 36-28 over Hagerty on Friday to advance to the state semifinal. FHSAA format switches the matchups of the four regions every three years with South Dade, the region 4-3A champion, moved to facing Fleming Island, the region 1-3A champion, this year in the semifinal instead of the final.
"Every body knows we are the number two in the state and that match should have been the final again," said Fleming Island coach P.J. Cobbert. ""I looked at some film from a couple of years back with those guys; Evan Mccall, Charles Cuthbert and David Detwiler, all solid fundamental wrestlers. When you learn as much as we are learning now, sometimes you forget the basics to win matches. We didn't learn as many moves back then, but executed what we knew with solid wrestling; old school. That's where we go from here."
South Dade continued to the championship round and won 57-13 over Osceola High School.
In Class 1A, Clay High wrestling coach Hunter Hill has had Wakulla on their radar screen since day one of summer training and the prophecy was fulfilled Friday afternoon with Wakulla taking a 34-22 region duals final from the Blue Devils.
Clay has won one and lost one; region final, against Wakulla in the past three years with both eventually losing to nationally-ranked Lake Highland Prep in their Final Four matches; Clay 64-6 in 2017 in the state semifinals; Wakulla 68-6 in the state final last year.
Against South Dade, Fleming Island faced off with four wrestlers going up a weight class in the middle weights; Gannon Janssen (145, at 152), Tanner Hill (152, at 160), Luke Chop (160, at 170) and Gavin Smith (170, at 182) to try and change up the lineup for style matchups, but South Dade was not quite flumoxed by the switches. Fleming Island pushed to keep the South Dade offensive to a minimum with four overtime matches; three wins to the Golden Eagles.
"That was the plan; maximize our points," said Cobbert. "We flipped one match our way (Holton) and had two (Hill, Williams) go their way. That's it."
At the start, at 152, Janssen, facing last year's 138 state runnerup, Joshua Swan, lasted three periods but lost a 15-4 major decision with Janssen surviving two near fall situations before Hill, facing last year's 152 pound runnerup, Steven Villalobos, got pancaked with a lightning-fast headlock throw in just 21 seconds to set back the Golden Eagles at 10-0.
"Didn't expect that," said Cobbert. "Tyler (Williams at 132) got caught by a very athletic wrestler and we didn't expect that. We will wrap our heads around this one. I saw it in their eyes afer this. They will be making our next opponents pay the price."
Fleming Island settled back into some rugged handfighting and got an overtime win from Chop over Bryan Valdez after a penalty point against Chop with 39 seconds of his match landed a 1-1 tie after regulation time.
In the second 30-second overtime slot, Chop, in the down position, executed a nifty rolling escape to nab a 2-1 win.
At 182, Smith faced off against newcomer Daniel Espino-Delgado and got a quick single-leg lift for a 2-0 lead in the first period against the much-bigger looking Delgado.
"Our plan was to slow the match down and make them stand in front of us," said Cobbert.
In the third, still at 2-0, Smith snagged his final 4-0 win with a combination of his footspeed and savvy to get behind Delgado with just five seconds left in the match.
Jeffrey Lascano, a state qualifier at 220 last year giving up at least 15 pounds, came in at 195 and had a slight heft advantage on South Dade's Alejandro Gonzalez, who looked taller, but lighter than the stockier Lascano.
Lascano, in the second period, got Gonzalez ready for an underhook the hook, but couldn't finish to give Gonzalez a 1-0 lead.
Lascano got out of a referee position to tie the match with less than a minute. Gonzalez would escape to take a 2-1 lead in the second 30-second overtime, but Lascano got around Gonzales for a reversal and a 3-2 win with just 10 seconds left in the period.
At 220, where Chad Nix is top-ranked and nearly untouchable, South Dade's Tanavieus Sharpshire, a 285 wrestler last year, held off Nix's pin aspirations, but lost 12-0 to put Fleming Island up 13-10.
Raul Gonzalez, at 285, and against a gigantic Jose Paez of South Dade, strategically kept his feet after two scoreless periods of shadowboxing with Paez attempting to lift Gonzalez.
In the third period, Gonzalez got a point on a release, but gave back the point with a stall call to end the match at 1-1. In the final 28 seconds, Gonzalez got to Paez' right leg, but could not topple for the takedown.
Neither scored in the first overtime with Gonzalez getting away from Paez with seven seconds to go ahead 2-1.
In the second 30 second overtime, Paez got out to tie at 2-2.
In the third overtime, Gonzalez stood and reversed on Paez to win 4-2 with 17 seconds to go.
With the score at 16-10, Fleming Island looked to be in upset mode, but a forfeit at 106 tied the match. 16-16. with Cobbert's lightweight lineup about to face off with South Dade's bread and butter; Adrian Morales at 113, a third place finisher at Knockout in December; Adrian Neco at 132, a fourth place finisher last year at 120 with a semifinal loss to Fleming Island state champion Briar Jackson in the semifinals, and three-time state champion Bretli Reyna at 145 in the matches final clash.
Hunter Herrington beat Morales 9-6 in a fast-paced throw-around to put Fleming Island up 19-16, but Ryan Hobson lost an overtime match at 120 to tie at 19-19.
Riley Holton got a 2-0 second period lead before Holton broke away twice for escapes and a 4-2 lead. Holton nearly cradled Gonzalez in the final 18 seconds.
Now up 22-19, Isaac Padgett, Fleming Island's newest face to the lineup faced off with Neco and held court despite losing a 7-1 match and tying the match at 22-22.
With state qualifier Tyler Williams up next against White, a muscular, compact attacker, Williams got pinned off a wizzer to put South Dade up 28-22.
Cobbert had no wrestler for Reyna at 145 as the match ended on the forfeit.
"Even with the forfeit at 106, we were in the mix," said Cobbert. "They know that as much as us."